Motherhood has a way of bringing out the spectrum of emotions. But it can be hard to parent when we feel angry, stressed, and upset at the drop of a hat. Here are some tips to be a calm mom when you feel anything but.
Imagine you love hiking. You make a habit of finding new trails and woods because you enjoy the thrill of exertion and exploring new terrain. Early Saturday morning you pack a bag with water, an anorak, lunch, and a camera. You put on thick socks with your best hiking books and drive out to your destination.
As you park the car and begin to set off, you wonder whether you need your compass or a map. Quickly you decide they aren’t necessary. You’ve got good instincts, after all. An hour into the hike you come to a fork, then another, then quite a few more. By lunchtime you are feeling that good tired. The satisfied physical kind. You sit down for a nice lunch, take a quick power nap, and decide to head back.
Soon you realize the way back isn’t all that clear. Your instinct tells you right, then left, then right again. But quickly you wander into unfamiliar territory and now you wonder… did I err at the first fork or the second? Should I retrace my steps all the way back to where I ate lunch, or try the other direction at the last fork?
Too often we do this in life. We rely on our feelings and instincts to guide us instead of just advise us.
If feelings are your compass, you will wander in circles.
The same is true in parenting. Because love for our children wells up instinctively, we feel the rest of parent is likely to do the same. The feelings of nurture, protection, and love overflow easily, and often it feels they’re all we need. While a foundation of love is the best thing you can do for your child, you cannot rely on your feelings alone to guide you in parenting decisions. Why? Because feelings make excellent servants, but terrible masters.
If our choices depend upon our moods, and our moods depend upon our children’s actions there will be no lasting peace, there will only be confusion. We can’t go into the parenting woods relying on our best guess. We need to let our values and principles guide us, particularly in those moments when we’re tempted to lose it.
Can we master our reactions and not take it personally?
A major anger trigger for moms is taking our children’s actions personally. Of course parenting is personal, but our children’s behavior will be very difficult to manage if we feel personally offended at their misbehavior or misconduct. No one is saying to stuff your emotions or pretend nothing happened, but that we can’t make our discipline, punishment, or long term parenting decisions while riding a wave of strong emotion.
Know this. Young child will test boundaries. They will do things that aren’t good things to do. They will yell, scream, wake you up in the middle of the night, refuse to sleep, and refuse to eat. Sometimes all at once. This is normal. This is what happens. We cannot take it personally.
One of the quickest ways to dispel your anger, frustration, or near to the surface outburst is to “zoom out.” Yes, it’s extremely exhausting, frustrating, and trying to take care of multiple small children day in and day out. Their physical needs are all consuming. You must be hyper-vigilant and cannot let them out of your sight. They will break things, hurt each other, and defy you and it’s hard. But they are learning and growing and it will soon pass.
Elsewhere in the world families are being displaced, murdered, and go to bed hungry. Mothers worldwide are dying of diseases with no cure, or none available to them anyway. Miscarriages, abortions, and child abuse abounds. These tragedies do not minimize your difficult emotions, no they do not. But they can help you put things in perspective in the moment.
Have a plan in place so you don’t lose your cool
It’s a good idea to have certain basic consequences in place for various behaviors. If you know what you’ll do when your kids don’t do their homework, defy your instructions, or lie, kick and scream then you won’t have to rely on your emotions or feelings to determine a course of action.
Instead of feeling angry or frustrated then finding a course of action from thin air, autopilot to your chosen consequence or loss of privilege without riding the wave of rage. This also works when you are feeling overwhelmed and angry, even when the kids aren’t doing anything wrong. If you have certain stress triggers, choose intentional habits you can default to. This way you won’t give in to emotions that make you feel more and more out of control.
Avoid punishment in anger
“I am so mad, I’m not going to pray for you for two years!” This is what I told my mom as a child after she did something I didn’t like. It didn’t stick, of course, but that was the best I had. Even from a young age my Confident + Take Charge temperament tended to lash out. My temperament has to be controlled for the stability of those around me.
I have a rule now. If I am flaming mad and my eyes are watering and woe betide the next person who crosses my path… I walk out of the room before saying or doing anything. After I’ve calmed down I will think of a proper consequence if one is in order. Walking away immediately helps calm me. It usually calms the kids as well because it gives them time to think about what’s happened.
Effective calm down methods
What works for one person might not work for another, but here are some tricks to keep in your arsenal to help you calm down. Remember a few and make a habit of using them when you are about to Flip Your Lid so you can develop a practice of calming.
- Tell your kids you “need a minute” and go to another room
- Stop what you’re doing, turn around, and take a deep breath
- Lay down and relax your muscles
- Put your child (or children) in their rooms or beds so you can take some time
- Go for a walk/run, even if you have to put the kids in a stroller
- Scream into a pillow
- Jump up and down or run in place
- Clean maniacally
- Call a friend
- Go for a drive
- Stay well rested (take a power nap or get more sleep in general)
Don’t be afraid to give yourself space
If you’re a stay at home mom like me, you can be tempted to feel every minute of the day should focus on your kids. If you are On The Verge and have lost all your calm you need some time to yourself. Put your kids in independent play, put them all to nap at the same time, or just send them out in the backyard to play. If you know you’re in a weary place, orient your day around giving yourself more alone time. You can find alone time even with small kids underfoot.
Whatever you do
Whatever you do remember, feelings will reveal what’s going on under the surface, but they cannot be trusted when they are on high alert and decisions must be made. Yelling, screaming, hitting, and the silent treatment are all poor responses to overwhelming emotions. And I’m talking about mothers here.
You have the ability to remain calm even if you are a passionate and emotive person. High emotions are signals of pent up frustrations and stress so working to manage the triggers and your reactions will help you become the calm parent you want to be.
Trust me I know.
- Why am I an angry mom? 5 anger triggers and how to manage them
- One quick way to release anger and move on
- How to handle anger towards your child
- Talking about how you really feel
If you really need a bit more help and focus to become a calm mom, here is a book that might be right up your alley. It’s called Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress and Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! Mothers have a hard job. It’s a privilege and a joy, but the days can be long and life can make us weary. This email series is a 15 day devotional (all encouragement, no homework) that includes a Scripture, thought, and prayer. Countless women have said it was, day after day, the right word in the right season.
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